How Covid-19 has changed the rules of the marketing game

The strategy is to have no fixed one; one needs to be flexible and prepared for both the short as well as long term

Experience plays a role in shaping and even re-shaping habits and the decision-making process
Experience plays a role in shaping and even re-shaping habits and the decision-making process

By Pankaj Gupta

The year 2020 has seen the world change, and how. We have spent it in an isolated bubble: avoiding human interactions, self-cocooning for months and working from home. There is a second wave of the pandemic that is already rising in some parts. Uncertainty has taken centre stage. But one thing is for sure – life goes on.

We are amid a pandemic that has put to the test every business continuity plan ever made. But with time, the fear is turning into acceptance, and individuals are adapting to the situation. The importance of trust in one another and camaraderie is increasing. The world, after all, is going through a shared experience.

Evolving consumers

Experience plays a role in shaping and even re-shaping habits and the decision-making process. Over the last few years, consumers have been evolving at a fast pace. This increasing awareness, coupled with multiple options and freely- available information on the internet, have impacted the overall customer psyche.

The pandemic’s impact on jobs, income, health and the general well-being of the family, has changed the focus towards cash conservation and essentials. Health – mental and physical well being – has become extremely important.

Things have taken a 180-degree turn in the wake of the pandemic. Home has become the new office, school, coffee shop and entertainment zone. Now, all needs have to be met at home, and brands that are choosing to deliver these may have opened a new avenue and channel of communication that would serve them well, even after the environment starts moving back to normal.

The usage of computers, laptops and mobiles has perhaps never been higher than right now. There has been a rapid rise in the number of first-time digital users; digital is currently the only option.

Life Insurance in Covid -19

This pandemic has made it necessary for individuals to think about financial protection – financial plans are being re-visited, and in most cases, created for the first time. The need for life insurance is greater than ever before, and this is because of our human instinct to protect. Every individual with responsibilities, now, wants a lifeboat that would keep their families afloat in their absence.

Rethinking marketing strategies

The strategy is to have no fixed one; one needs to be flexible and prepared for both the short as well as long term. It is critical to re-evaluate one’s marketing strategy and plans. Three and five-year plans need a radical refresh in 2021. It would be essential for now to focus on shorter-range projects that extend for up to a maximum of say three to six months, based on emerging scenarios.

Brands need to do a recalibration exercise. The need to obsessively follow data to course-correct plans is critical to emerging stronger. Digital can no longer be the second fiddle. To track the changing needs of the consumers, analytics will be essential for any new marketing strategy that is born in this new normal. Existing models will have to be replaced with new behavioural data.

Be sensitive, be agile

One of the most significant learning from this pandemic is the need to be agile. Organisations that can do the transition from offline to online will emerge as the survivors. Those that still depend on the offline mode need to offer greater value and deliver on the brand promise. Brand communication needs to be sensitive to consumer emotions as everyone is facing a different kind of challenge.

Many consumers who have now tasted easier access to content and transacting online would continue to explore and demand online solutions for many of their other needs as well. Hence, every business needs to simplify and reinvent the existing methods of business—both offline and online—and align to the future digital. But consumers aren’t the only ones expecting successful digital disruption. The industries that have continued to thrive with a work-from-home workforce may relax their policies and enable digital convenience to homes.

When we look at some of the recent marketing and communication efforts closely, it becomes evident that engagements that have genuinely helped the customer or society at large have been appreciated, connecting well with consumers. One can also notice that it is an especially wrong time for gimmicks of any kind. It would be best to engage with consumers during these times only if you have something meaningful to offer and that too, authentically.

The author is senior executive vice president (Sales) and CMO, HDFC Life Insurance

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